: an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government
especially : a gross violation of law
: a grave offense especially against morality
: criminal activity
efforts to fight crime
: something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful
It's a crime to waste good food.
crimeless adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for crime

offense, sin, vice, crime, scandal mean a transgression of law.

offense applies to the infraction of any law, rule, or code.

at that school no offense went unpunished

sin implies an offense against moral or religious law.

the sin of blasphemy

vice applies to a habit or practice that degrades or corrupts.

regarded gambling as a vice

crime implies a serious offense punishable by the law of the state.

the crime of murder

scandal applies to an offense that outrages the public conscience.

a career ruined by a sex scandal

Examples of crime in a Sentence

She paid dearly for her crimes. evidence that helped them solve the crime He was punished for a crime that he didn't commit. the recent increase in violent crime Being single is not a crime. There's no greater crime than forgetting your anniversary. See More
Recent Examples on the Web By the time the inquiry was finished, nine people had been indicted for various political and financial crimes, including placing a ghost candidate on the ballot for the state legislature. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 Fans of Night Country will love the show’s combination of gritty crime and haunting paranormal elements. Keith Langston, Peoplemag, 19 Feb. 2024 Chris Eberhart is a crime and US news reporter for Fox News Digital. Chris Eberhart, Fox News, 19 Feb. 2024 Cohen has since become one of Trump’s biggest critics and ultimately served a three-year prison sentence for his crimes. Alison Durkee, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2024 True Detective: Night Country winked and nodded to the HBO crime anthology’s original iteration all season long. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Feb. 2024 The thefts at the tool library reflect how few communities have been spared from the spate and fear of crime in D.C. Olivia Diaz, Washington Post, 17 Feb. 2024 Cara began her career on the crime beat at Newsday. Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 17 Feb. 2024 Sen plays the title role of Aarya Sareen, a fierce mother who has to keep her family safe from the world of crime. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 7 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'crime.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, "wrongdoing, sin," borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin crīmin-, crīmen "accusation, charge, indictment, source of an accusation, misdeed, offense," probably from crī-, variant stem of cernere "to sift, discern, decide, determine" + -men, resultative noun suffix (probably originally "decision," then "judicial decision, indictment") — more at certain entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of crime was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near crime

Cite this Entry

“Crime.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the doing of an act forbidden by law or the failure to do an act required by law especially when serious
: criminal activity
the war on crime
: an act that is sinful, foolish, or disgraceful
it's a crime to waste good food

Legal Definition


: conduct that is prohibited and has a specific punishment (as incarceration or fine) prescribed by public law compare delict, tort
: an offense against public law usually excluding a petty violation see also felony, misdemeanor

Note: Crimes in the common-law tradition were originally defined primarily by judicial decision. For the most part, common-law crimes are now codified. There is a general principle “nullum crimen sine lege,” that there can be no crime without a law. A crime generally consists of both conduct, known as the actus reus, and a concurrent state of mind, known as the mens rea.

: criminal activity

Middle French, from Latin crimen fault, accusation, crime

More from Merriam-Webster on crime

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